Funding Cuts for PARA, TPL Reduced in 2021 Budget Compromise
The Tuscaloosa Public Library (TPL) and the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority (PARA) will receive significantly more funding from the city of Tuscaloosa than Mayor Walt Maddox recommended earlier this month when he proposed slashing outside agency funding by 38 percent across the board.
During last week's Tuscaloosa City Council Finance Committee Meeting, Mayor Walt Maddox and council members reached a compromise that will only cut funding for TPL and PARA by 10 percent.
The compromise will also give additional funding to the city's Infrastructure and Public Services Department.
In order to provide the library, PARA and public services department more money in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, the city will "loan" its General Fund $5 million from its Elevate Tuscaloosa Fund with the understanding that the money borrowed will be repaid over the next few years.
The amended plan made its way into the city's $156 million General Fund budget for the Fiscal Year, which the full council voted unanimously to adopt Tuesday night. Outside agency funding makes up almost $11 million of that budget.
"This is something that we can all agree upon and especially with us wanting to help these two agencies and then also recognize our largest department," Chair of the City's Financial Committee Councilor Sonya McKinstry said.
PARA will now receive a little more than $3.6 million from the city in 2021, which is around $600,000 less than what it received in the 2020 fiscal year budget. Tuscaloosa Public Library will be given $1.2 million for the 2021 fiscal year.
"The good news is I think we’ve been able to reach an agreement and I feel very comfortable with it and most of those agencies should be in relatively good shape," Maddox said last week.
Maddox also said that city's departments also face budget cuts, just like the outside agencies the city provides funding to. He said the city of Tuscaloosa is looking at a $15 million revenue loss plus another $5 million in COVID-19 expenses that will carry over into the 2021 fiscal year.
This $20 million hole forced Maddox to originally propose much larger funding cuts to TPL and PARA so the city could ensure the financial health of its own fire department and police department.
"That’s not to say that parks and libraries are not important, they really really are, but if I went to your checking account and I took out 15 percent of your money, you would have to make decisions about what you would do," Maddox said. "Unlike the federal government, we can’t borrow to balance, so that’s the position that we’re in."